February 18, 2019

A Possible Victory in the Battle Against Aging

“Judith Campisi has been a leading figure in the biology of aging since the early 1990s, when her research on the basic mechanisms of cancer revealed an unexpected finding—that cells enter a phase known as senescence that prevents them from becoming cancerous. More than 25 years later, the insight has led to a new kind of drug that may slow or modestly reverse human aging.

Campisi’s research is on the role of cellular senescence in cancer and other age-related diseases. Senescent cells undergo a transition into a twilight state where they are still active but no longer dividing; research by Campisi and others showed that this was a strategy to derail incipient cancers, which are characterized by runaway cell division and growth. But she and others also discovered that these senescent cells accumulate as we grow older, secreting an array of molecules that promote the tissue degradation associated with aging.

In the past five years, this insight has led to the pursuit of a new class of drugs known as senolytics, which eliminate senescent cells and, in animal experiments, restore more youthful characteristics. Campisi, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, cofounded a company called Unity Biotechnology in 2011, which launched a human trial of its first senolytic drug last July.”

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